Kherson prosecutor’s office ‘picked on’ free legal aid center

Reading prosecutor’s request one may assume that complaints against state agencies have to be prepared by exactly the same state agencies, against which people want to complain.

Skadovsk District Prosecutor’s Office submitted a request to the City Council proposing to close the Primary Legal Aid Center, which provides legal assistance to city residents.

The prosecutor’s office has cited the ‘overlapping of functions of state agencies and local governments’ as reason to close this socially important institution. Following the prosecutor’s office logic, state agencies, against which people want to complain, are expected to help these people in developing complaints against themselves and do so effectively.

In practice, people, especially the low income groups, upon visiting state agencies and getting no adequate response to their concerns, would normally seek advice at the Primary Legal Aid Center since its consultations are free of charge.

Ivan Shulha, Head of the Center, says: ‘people come to our center every day and we assist them. For instance, we frequently get complaints against the Pension Fund, which fails to provide people with proper explanations regarding recalculation of pensions. We also get complaints against judicial enforcement agents, who are reluctant to communicate. We help people develop complaints properly and explain them their rights. We also explain people what exactly these state agencies must do under the current legislation.’

Roman Romanov, Director of the Rule of Law Program at the International Renaissance Foundation, which assisted in establishing the Center, calls such actions by the prosecutor’s office ‘an attempt to limit local initiatives and intimidate local governments.’ Mr. Romanov said: ‘establishing a powerful and extensive free legal aid system is a prerequisite for limiting prosecutor’s office functions related to representation of citizens’ interests. It is not surprising that the prosecutor’s office is trying to cast doubt on the ability of institutions that fill the gap that the state agencies, including the prosecutor’s office itself, are not capable to fill.

The prosecutor's office is trying to interfere with the rights of local governments, limit local initiatives and intimidate local governments. Established by the City Council, this municipal agency has actively protected interests of the Skadovsk territorial community, particularly in land disputes, as opposed to the local prosecutor's office, which operated exclusively in the interests of the ruling elite. Such interference with functions of a municipal agency and local governments of Skadovsk on the part of the prosecutor’s office appears to be particularly cynical and requires a proper response on the part of territorial communities and civil society.’

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